The Questions: Craig Sams, founder of Carbon Gold Biochar

Like many gardeners I am very aware that continuing to use peat based products in our gardens is not sustainable and that we have to find other mediums that will replace them.  I have been trying a variety of different peat-free products over the last couple of years.   I was contacted by the people at Carbon Gold who produce and sell Biochar products, to see if I wanted to work on a couple of projects with them and I quickly agreed.  I am trialling some of their products and their founder, Craig Sams, kindly agreed to answer The Questions.

Photo c/o Carbon Gold 

Biochar is an organic gardening aid and Carbon Gold was founded by Craig and his co-founder Dan Morrell in 2007.  Biochar is organic material that has been carbonised under high temperatures.  Carbon Gold is 100% peat free and free from chemicals.  Carbon Gold's website syas that the company is a B-Corp which means that it is certified as a conscientious business that prioritises its employees, customers, community and its impact on the world over profits.  All very impressive!

I will be writing my review of their products shortly and in the meantime……

The Questions


In which garden do you feel happiest?

Apart from Great Dixter, where else but my own?  We have a lovely ½ acre walled garden on a gentle hillside with a huge, sprawling 200 year old mulberry tree, raised bed potagers and a lot of other fruit including plums, a greengage, apples, raspberries, pears and wild strawberries.  Ruled over by a gigantic gunnera that needs to be regularly cut back or it would consume the whole garden



If you could only have five garden-related tools, which would they be?

Watering can, trowel, fork, secateurs, dibber








If you could only have five garden-related books, which would they be?







The Climate Change Garden, 
The Foragers Garden,

A Year Full of Flowers,

Down The Garden Path,

The Well-Tempered Garden


What was the most defining moment in your life so far?








1965, soon to graduate. Visiting The Paradox macrobiotic restaurant in New York’s East Village and realising instantly that what I really wanted to do with my life was to create a place like it in London.  That led to a career in natural and organic food retail, wholesale and manufacturing.  (Yoko Ono was working at the Paradox in 1965, then moved to London and became a regular customer in both our restaurants).  


What are you most proud of?








Green & Black’s chocolate.  The 70% was a pioneering high-quality product that, in the words, on the once-off Academy of Chocolate award, was for: ‘Changing the way people think about chocolate.’  It was also the first ever Fairtrade Mark product and made a big difference to the lives of cacao farmers. It was an example to large chocolate companies that led to them doing good (and doing well) too. 


If you won the lottery, what would you do?






Carry on doing what I am doing until the money runs out (The standard farmer’s reply to that question)


Who are your garden heroes (no more than three)?




Arit Anderson, Vita Sackville West, Sarah Raven (with a nod to her mother Faith Raven, who designed the stunning gardens at Ardtornish)


What skill would you like to learn and why? (does not have to be garden related).

Singing.  I am having singing/songwriting lessons and there’s a great keyboard player with a recording studio in Blackheath who wants to make a few recordings with me.  Watch this space! 


If you could visit any garden right this minute, which one would it be?

Sissinghurst.  I haven’t been for more than a decade and love its history.  Charleston would be a close runner up.


What is your current plant obsession?




Dandelions.  I collect seed from admirable specimens wherever I go and then propagate them in our potager.  (I eat a lot of dandelion leaves and drink dandelion root coffee).  My great-uncle Murray Toney lived to be 112 and had a cataract operation when he was 103.  I asked him what difference it made being able to see again and he replied ‘I can see and pick dandelion leaves for my salads.’  Dandelions are all female, so they don’t cross-pollinate, but they do evolve epigenetically. I am encouraging my collection to do this by manipulating their growing environment and am now getting some pretty interesting specimens.


Which garden tool is never far from your hand?




Secateurs.  We also have a small woodland. Secateurs help to create paths through the trees and thickets - kids love exploring them and I create low level tunnels that add to the magic


What is your favourite gardening/plant related word?


Mycorrhizae - if you look at the history of how they evolved, plants are really just the food-gathering tool of mycorrhizae, just as we are the food-gathering tool of our gut microbiome.  Humbling.  Those microbes have us sussed.


What do you wish you could do better?


Grafting.  We had 20 Saltcote Pippin apple trees grafted last Autumn and I saw how it’s done but didn’t get the hands-on experience.  


What is the most important lesson you have learned so far?






Compost, compost, compost.

Give Nature the tools and let her do the heavy work.  Even too much weeding disturbs the growth of plants and the soil microbiome - benign neglect can often be better than active interference. 


What makes a perfect day for you?




Get up and catch up on Scrabble and FB and FT and my work.  Then, late morning, to take a slice of bread and mayonnaise and have a light breakfast/early lunch in the garden with bits of whatever’s up (mostly dandelion, rocket, nasturtium, marigold, rosemary).  An afternoon swim (the sea is 5 minutes away) and a nap in the sunshine. Then round off my day with a wander up the hill and watch the sun’s last moments from the cliffs.  


If you had one piece of advice to offer to someone what would it be?





All plants like carbon dioxide.  I breathe on them regularly, it’s like feeding them candy.  The Prince of Wales is alleged to talk to his plants but I suspect what they really like is that human breath is 100 times richer in CO2 than the atmosphere. 


Gnome or no gnome?

Blush, blush. Do I have to say? 

See here more people who answered The Questions 

Stay Safe and Be Kind

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